Current Exhibitions

SUArt Galleries: January 16 - March 13, 2020

Black Subjects in Modern Media Photography: Works from the George R. Rinhart Collection

Black and white image of bus riders

This exhibition features 145 photographs from one of the  largest private collections in the nation, offering a glimpse of the complexity and paradoxes of Black visual modernity. Pictures featuring varied themes—Cities, Politics, Work, Kinship, School, Religion, Leisure, Childhood, Colonies, and Portraits – welcome viewers to consider how people, places, and practices were presented as Black subjects to mass audiences via newspapers, magazines, documentary projects, libraries, and advertising. They raise several questions.  How do photographs compose Black subjects? How and to what extent did Black people present themselves as subjects in settings they chose to occupy, in venues they did not control, and in regimes that rendered them subject peoples? How do titles, captions, and frames limit or alter the focus and contexts of an image?  Such inquiries engage a photograph’s capacity to convey meaning and invite new interpretations of what it meant to create, be, and see a modern Black subject. This exhibition is curated by Joan Bryant, associate professor of African American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University.


Please note, this exhibition includes text and photographs that document inequality, racism, and violence.  Experiencing such material might be challenging for some viewers.  We present it with the aim of promoting historically-informed considerations of social relations and justice.

Masterpieces of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Painting from Regional Collections

It has been estimated that in The Netherlands over the course of the seventeenthcentury approximately two million paintings were created. This astonishing number reflects the prosperity of the small country that was known at that time as the Dutch Republic. It may have been small compared to its European neighbors but the Dutch Republic was a major power owing to its strong economy and far-reaching mercantile activities. Needless to say, in this prosperous atmosphere painting flourished thanks to sizeable numbers of talented masters, many of whom specialized in the rendition of specific subject matter. Dutch painters portrayed their surrounding world in landscapes, portraits, still-life, and genre paintings (scenes of daily life) and they are still acclaimed today for having done so. Indeed, the ability of their seemingly unassuming yet celebrated pictures to evoke daily existence has led to the recognition of seventeenth-century painting as a true Golden Age of Dutch art. However, like their European counterparts, Dutch masters just as often focused their efforts on the depiction of subjects drawn from the Bible or from classical mythology.            

This exhibition provides a small yet impressive sample of the fruits of their labors. Visitors to this show may not recognize all of the names of the painters whose creations are on display here. Nevertheless, their work provides a glimpse into the wide-ranging subject matter and uncompromisingly high quality of seventeenth-century Dutch art. The pictures on view here were drawn from the holdings of two private collections, the Syracuse University Art Galleries, and the following regional institutions: the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University in Ithaca, NYthe Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY; The Lorenzo State Historic Site in Cazenovia, NY; and The Regina Quick Center for the Arts at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, NY. Collectively, these paintings pay testimony to the rich holdings of Dutch artand European art in generalat institutions and in private collections all within a few hours’ drive from Syracuse.  

This exhibition is curated by Wayne Franits, Distinguished Professor of Art History in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, in conjunction with his Fall 2018 seminar, Graduate Research Methods and Scholarly Writing. Through in-depth research and careful analysis, graduate students Sheridan Bishoff, Natasha Bishop, Emily Dugan, Elisabeth Genter, and Monica Quinones-Rivera studied the pictures on display in terms of how they contribute to our understanding of the function, purpose, and broader context of art making in the Dutch Republic. 

Making History, Justifying Conquest: Depictions of Native Americans in American Book Company Textbooks

illustration drawing of a Native American chief

As the USA rose in world power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a government-led emphasis emerged in promoting a national history in which the conquest of Native peoples was justified. The American Book Company, one of the largest textbook publishers of the time, played a vital role in this process, producing many textbooks that contained illustrated histories featuring Native peoples. A vast audience of impressionable, young minds encountered these textbooks which rely on images mythologizing White heroism and conveying Native savagery and primitivism through scenes such as Daniel Carter Beard’s The Perils and Pleasures of the Wilderness—Daniel Boone, circa 1900. These books reflected and shaped widespread rhetoric of Euro-American superiority, which sought to justify the colonization of Native lands and the conquest of Native peoples. This exhibition deconstructs the versions of history and Native peoples presented by the illustrations through four prominent themes found in ABC publications: contact, the construction of history, assimilation and violence, and the vanishing Indian. To further explain the different views, quotes from Native artists, writers, and scholars are included in each section. The authoritative, educational messages communicated in the American Book Company textbooks ensured a lasting legacy for dominant narratives of American history that still marginalize Native peoples today. However, by calling attention to these images and placing them in a more accurate context, this exhibition asks us to consider how images are used and misused to construct historical narratives.   

 This exhibition is curated by Julia Jessen, Syracuse University G’20 in Museum Studies and Art History.

People of a Darker Hue

This 14-minute short invites viewers to consider the policies and law enforcement practices that impact communities of color. The film calls attention to the many unarmed men and woman who were recently killed due to police violence. It will run continuously during museum hours.
Considered one of the most influential contemporary American artists, Carrie Mae Weems has sustained an ongoing dialogue within contemporary discourse for more than 30 years. Weems will bring her talent, experience, and wisdom to Syracuse University when she arrives on campus on Feb. 1, the start of a three-year University Artist in Residence position

Palitz Gallery: February 3 - April 9, 2020

The Radical Collage: Afrosurrealism and the Repurposed Fabrication of Black Bodies

images of black male withe serpent or insect bottom half


“Presuppose that beyond this visible world, there is an invisible world striving to manifest, and it is our job to uncover it.” – D. Scot Miller

The Radical Collage: Afrosurrealism and the Repurposed Fabrication of Black Bodies is a political exhibition, by nature, seeking to reinvest itself within the uncanny depictions of Black bodies residing in distant pasts and presents via the cultural aesthetic and liberatory framework of Afrosurrealism.

Steered to cultivate an alternative perspective, the exhibition will explore notions of breaching consciousness via its contextualization within collage. Mirroring the selected artists, the curation of the exhibition utilizes a variety of methods and material which contribute to the inter-sectional navigation of narrative within sociopolitical issues surrounding the reality of being a Black body residing within our current society. Specifically focusing on the endured experiences and sensibilities of Black bodies, how do we cope with the trauma(s) induced by the modernization of the Black American? Is it through newfound skill at creating an entirely different world organically connected to the one in which we reside . . . or via the Black aesthetic in its actual contemporary lived life?

Curated by Evan A. Starling-Davis and organized by the Community Folk Art Center